Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: PeerJ


An ever expanding body of research investigates the human microbiome in general and the skin microbiome in particular. Microbiomes vary greatly from individual to individual. Understanding the factors that account for this variation, however, has proven challenging, with many studies able to account statistically for just a small proportion of the inter-individual variation in the abundance, species richness or composition of bacteria. The human armpit has long been noted to host a high biomass bacterial community, and recent studies have highlighted substantial inter-individual variation in armpit bacteria, even relative to variation among individuals for other body habitats. One obvious potential explanation for this variation has to do with the use of personal hygiene products, particularly deodorants and antiperspirants. Here we experimentally manipulate product use to examine the abundance, species richness, and composition of bacterial communities that recolonize the armpits of people with different product use habits. In doing so, we find that when deodorant and antiperspirant use were stopped, culturable bacterial density increased and approached that found on individuals who regularly do not use any product. In addition, when antiperspirants were subsequently applied, bacterial density dramatically declined. These culture-based results are in line with sequence-based comparisons of the effects of long-term product use on bacterial species richness and composition. Sequence-based analyses suggested that individuals who habitually use antiperspirant tended to have a greater richness of bacterial OTUs in their armpits than those who use deodorant. In addition, individuals who used antiperspirants or deodorants long-term, but who stopped using product for two or more days as part of this study, had armpit communities dominated by Staphylococcaceae, whereas those of individuals in our study who habitually used no products were dominated by Corynebacterium. Collectively these results suggest a strong effect of product use on the bacterial composition of armpits. Although stopping the use of deodorant and antiperspirant similarly favors presence of Staphylococcaceae over Corynebacterium, their differential modes of action exert strikingly different effects on the richness of other bacteria living in armpit communities.

Concepts: Bacteria, Deodorant


Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a previously unstudied sensory phenomenon, in which individuals experience a tingling, static-like sensation across the scalp, back of the neck and at times further areas in response to specific triggering audio and visual stimuli. This sensation is widely reported to be accompanied by feelings of relaxation and well-being. The current study identifies several common triggers used to achieve ASMR, including whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds and slow movements. Data obtained also illustrates temporary improvements in symptoms of depression and chronic pain in those who engage in ASMR. A high prevalence of synaesthesia (5.9%) within the sample suggests a possible link between ASMR and synaesthesia, similar to that of misophonia. Links between number of effective triggers and heightened flow state suggest that flow may be necessary to achieve sensations associated with ASMR.

Concepts: Pain


The tube-crested hadrosaurid dinosaur Parasaurolophus is remarkable for its unusual cranial ornamentation, but little is known about its growth and development, particularly relative to well-documented ontogenetic series for lambeosaurin hadrosaurids (such as Corythosaurus, Lambeosaurus, and Hypacrosaurus). The skull and skeleton of a juvenile Parasaurolophus from the late Campanian-aged (∼75.5 Ma) Kaiparowits Formation of southern Utah, USA, represents the smallest and most complete specimen yet described for this taxon. The individual was approximately 2.5 m in body length (∼25% maximum adult body length) at death, with a skull measuring 246 mm long and a femur 329 mm long. A histological section of the tibia shows well-vascularized, woven and parallel-fibered primary cortical bone typical of juvenile ornithopods. The histological section revealed no lines of arrested growth or annuli, suggesting the animal may have still been in its first year at the time of death. Impressions of the upper rhamphotheca are preserved in association with the skull, showing that the soft tissue component for the beak extended for some distance beyond the limits of the oral margin of the premaxilla. In marked contrast with the lengthy tube-like crest in adult Parasaurolophus, the crest of the juvenile specimen is low and hemicircular in profile, with an open premaxilla-nasal fontanelle. Unlike juvenile lambeosaurins, the nasal passages occupy nearly the entirety of the crest in juvenile Parasaurolophus. Furthermore, Parasaurolophus initiated development of the crest at less than 25% maximum skull size, contrasting with 50% of maximum skull size in hadrosaurs such as Corythosaurus. This early development may correspond with the larger and more derived form of the crest in Parasaurolophus, as well as the close relationship between the crest and the respiratory system. In general, ornithischian dinosaurs formed bony cranial ornamentation at a relatively younger age and smaller size than seen in extant birds. This may reflect, at least in part, that ornithischians probably reached sexual maturity prior to somatic maturity, whereas birds become reproductively mature after reaching adult size.

Concepts: Respiratory system, Nasal cavity, Hypacrosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Dinosaur, Hadrosaurid


Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is a remarkable genus of miniaturized frogs of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. Many of its species are highly endemic to cloud forests, being found only on one or a few mountaintops. Such level of microendemism might be caused by their climatic tolerance to a narrow set of environmental conditions found only in montane regions. This restriction severely limits the chance of discovery of new species, given the difficulty of exploring these inaccessible habitats. Following extensive fieldwork in montane areas of the southern portion of the Atlantic Rainforest, in this study we describe seven new species of Brachycephalus from the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. These species can be distinguished from one another based on coloration and the level of rugosity of the skin in different parts of their body. These discoveries increase considerably the number of described species of Brachycephalus in southern Brazil.

Concepts: German Brazilian, Montane, Forest, Joinville, Atlantic Ocean, Biodiversity, Florianópolis, Brazil


A strong argument can be made that the European Union has the most rigorous regulatory system for pesticides in the world, and that modern pesticide use poses fewer environmental threats than older regimes. Nevertheless, the impacts of pesticides on bees and other non-target organisms are much debated in Europe as elsewhere. Here we document changing patterns of pesticide use in arable and horticultural crops in Great Britain from 1990 to 2015. The weight of pesticides used has approximately halved over this period, but in contrast the number of applications per field nearly doubled. The total potential kill of honeybees (the total number of LD50 doses applied to the 4.6 million hectares of arable farmland in Great Britain each year) increased six-fold to approximately 3 × 1016 bees, the result of the increasing use of neonicotinoids from 1994 onwards which more than offset the effect of declining organophosphate use. It is important to stress that this does not mean that this number of bees will be killed, and also to acknowledge that our simple analysis does not take into account many factors such as differences in persistence, and timing and mode of application of pesticides, which will affect actual exposure of non-target organisms. Nonetheless, all else being equal, these data suggest that the risk posed by pesticides to non-target insects such as bees, other pollinators and natural enemies of pests, has increased considerably in the last 26 years.


Although brain imaging studies have demonstrated that listening to music alters human brain structure and function, the molecular mechanisms mediating those effects remain unknown. With the advent of genomics and bioinformatics approaches, these effects of music can now be studied in a more detailed fashion. To verify whether listening to classical music has any effect on human transcriptome, we performed genome-wide transcriptional profiling from the peripheral blood of participants after listening to classical music (n = 48), and after a control study without music exposure (n = 15). As musical experience is known to influence the responses to music, we compared the transcriptional responses of musically experienced and inexperienced participants separately with those of the controls. Comparisons were made based on two subphenotypes of musical experience: musical aptitude and music education. In musically experiencd participants, we observed the differential expression of 45 genes (27 up- and 18 down-regulated) and 97 genes (75 up- and 22 down-regulated) respectively based on subphenotype comparisons (rank product non-parametric statistics, pfp 0.05, >1.2-fold change over time across conditions). Gene ontological overrepresentation analysis (hypergeometric test, FDR < 0.05) revealed that the up-regulated genes are primarily known to be involved in the secretion and transport of dopamine, neuron projection, protein sumoylation, long-term potentiation and dephosphorylation. Down-regulated genes are known to be involved in ATP synthase-coupled proton transport, cytolysis, and positive regulation of caspase, peptidase and endopeptidase activities. One of the most up-regulated genes, alpha-synuclein (SNCA), is located in the best linkage region of musical aptitude on chromosome 4q22.1 and is regulated by GATA2, which is known to be associated with musical aptitude. Several genes reported to regulate song perception and production in songbirds displayed altered activities, suggesting a possible evolutionary conservation of sound perception between species. We observed no significant findings in musically inexperienced participants.

Concepts: Human brain, Experience, Sound, Philosophy of science, DNA, Gene expression, Gene, Brain


Most cropland in the United States is characterized by large monocultures, whose productivity is maintained through a strong reliance on costly tillage, external fertilizers, and pesticides (Schipanski et al., 2016). Despite this, farmers have developed a regenerative model of farm production that promotes soil health and biodiversity, while producing nutrient-dense farm products profitably. Little work has focused on the relative costs and benefits of novel regenerative farming operations, which necessitates studyingin situ, farmer-defined best management practices. Here, we evaluate the relative effects of regenerative and conventional corn production systems on pest management services, soil conservation, and farmer profitability and productivity throughout the Northern Plains of the United States. Regenerative farming systems provided greater ecosystem services and profitability for farmers than an input-intensive model of corn production. Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms, indicating that farmers who proactively design pest-resilient food systems outperform farmers that react to pests chemically. Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production but 78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems. Profit was positively correlated with the particulate organic matter of the soil, not yield. These results provide the basis for dialogue on ecologically based farming systems that could be used to simultaneously produce food while conserving our natural resource base: two factors that are pitted against one another in simplified food production systems. To attain this requires a systems-level shift on the farm; simply applying individual regenerative practices within the current production model will not likely produce the documented results.

Concepts: Maize, Profit, Ecology, Farm, Soil, Agriculture, Biodiversity


Understanding the relationship between scientific productivity and research group size is important for deciding how science should be funded. We have investigated the relationship between these variables in the life sciences in the United Kingdom using data from 398 principle investigators (PIs). We show that three measures of productivity, the number of publications, the impact factor of the journals in which papers are published and the number of citations, are all positively correlated to group size, although they all show a pattern of diminishing returns-doubling group size leads to less than a doubling in productivity. The relationships for the impact factor and the number of citations are extremely weak. Our analyses suggest that an increase in productivity will be achieved by funding more PIs with small research groups, unless the cost of employing post-docs and PhD students is less than 20% the cost of a PI. We also provide evidence that post-docs are more productive than PhD students both in terms of the number of papers they produce and where those papers are published.

Concepts: Impact factor, Productive forces, United Kingdom, Nature, Mathematics, Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science


Harmine is the β-carboline alkaloid with the highest concentration in the psychotropic plant decoction Ayahuasca. In rodents, classical antidepressants reverse the symptoms of depression by stimulating neuronal proliferation. It has been shown that Ayahuasca presents antidepressant effects in patients with depressive disorder. In the present study, we investigated the effects of harmine in cell cultures containing human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs, 97% nestin-positive) derived from pluripotent stem cells. After 4 days of treatment, the pool of proliferating hNPCs increased by 71.5%. Harmine has been reported as a potent inhibitor of the dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase (DYRK1A), which regulates cell proliferation and brain development. We tested the effect of analogs of harmine, an inhibitor of DYRK1A (INDY), and an irreversible selective inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (MAO) but not DYRK1A (pargyline). INDY but not pargyline induced proliferation of hNPCs similarly to harmine, suggesting that inhibition of DYRK1A is a possible mechanism to explain harmine effects upon the proliferation of hNPCs. Our findings show that harmine enhances proliferation of hNPCs and suggest that inhibition of DYRK1A may explain its effects upon proliferation in vitro and antidepressant effects in vivo.

Concepts: Neuron, Monoamine oxidase, Serotonin, Stem cell, Monoamine oxidase inhibitor, Progenitor cell, Developmental biology, Cell biology


Scientific reproducibility has been at the forefront of many news stories and there exist numerous initiatives to help address this problem. We posit that a contributor is simply a lack of specificity that is required to enable adequate research reproducibility. In particular, the inability to uniquely identify research resources, such as antibodies and model organisms, makes it difficult or impossible to reproduce experiments even where the science is otherwise sound. In order to better understand the magnitude of this problem, we designed an experiment to ascertain the “identifiability” of research resources in the biomedical literature. We evaluated recent journal articles in the fields of Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology and General Biology, selected randomly based on a diversity of impact factors for the journals, publishers, and experimental method reporting guidelines. We attempted to uniquely identify model organisms (mouse, rat, zebrafish, worm, fly and yeast), antibodies, knockdown reagents (morpholinos or RNAi), constructs, and cell lines. Specific criteria were developed to determine if a resource was uniquely identifiable, and included examining relevant repositories (such as model organism databases, and the Antibody Registry), as well as vendor sites. The results of this experiment show that 54% of resources are not uniquely identifiable in publications, regardless of domain, journal impact factor, or reporting requirements. For example, in many cases the organism strain in which the experiment was performed or antibody that was used could not be identified. Our results show that identifiability is a serious problem for reproducibility. Based on these results, we provide recommendations to authors, reviewers, journal editors, vendors, and publishers. Scientific efficiency and reproducibility depend upon a research-wide improvement of this substantial problem in science today.

Concepts: Organism, Yeast, Experiment, Bacteria, Science, Impact factor, Biology, Model organism